Forty years ago, someone thought it would be a great idea to make a pseudo-biopic-musical about the Village People called Can’t Stop the Music.That someone was Allan Carr. At the time, he was on top of his game after producing Grease two years earlier. Given that blockbuster success, it’s not surprising that Carr was able to get any film he wanted green-lit. Similarly, the Village People were a very popular disco act. The kitschy group, consisting of the Cop (Ray Simpson), Cowboy (Randy Jones), Native American (Felipe Rose), G.I. (Alex Briley), Construction Worker (David Hodo), and Leatherman (Glenn M. Hughes), had sold tons of albums worldwide. The movie could have been a hit in theory, but it crashed and burned. The box office was horrible, critics ripped it apart, and it won the first annual Razzie Award for Worst Picture. That’s the triple crown of sucking. Over the years, CSTM has bounced back somewhat and become a cult classic, mainly because it’s so delightfully absurd. Here are ten ridiculous things about the film.
10. The writing
The plot is very thin. Musician Jack (Steve Guttenberg) enlists his roommate Samantha (Valerie Perrine), a former supermodel, to help him get a record deal. He can’t sing, so a group is needed to perform the music. They assemble a motley crew and brand them as the Village People. Now they just need to get Samantha’s ex-boyfriend Steve (Paul Sands), president of Marrakech Records, to sign the group. There’s also a silly subplot about Samantha falling for uptight lawyer Ron (Caitlyn Jenner). The movie needed a bit of romance I suppose. Bronte Woodard wrote the screenplay and you have to wonder how high he was while doing so. The story is just a bunch of nonsensical moments and wacky hijinks thrown together. There’s also the wooden dialogue with lines like, “The 70s are dead and gone. The 80s are going to be something wonderfully new and different, and so am I”. Yikes.
9. Nancy Walker
On one hand, it’s fantastic that actress Nancy Walker was hired on as the director. She became the first woman to helm a multi-million-dollar movie. On the other hand, this is what she made. CSTM marked her first and last feature film. There’s also the fact that before this she was best known for starring as the “quicker picker upper” lady in Bounty commercials. No amount of paper towels could clean up this mess of a film though.
A lot of CSTM revolves around Samantha, which is a bad choice. Perrine isn’t a bad actress, but she can only do so much with such an empty character. She mainly bounces from scene to scene being bubbly. Carr originally wanted Olivia Newton-John for the role. She turned him down and signed on to be in Xanadu instead, which is the equivalent of dodging a bullet only to get hit by a bus.
At one point, Jack and Samantha hold auditions for new group members. There are some random acts, like a clown on stilts and a stripper. Then the Leatherman struts in and sings a stirring rendition of “Oh Danny Boy” while standing on a piano. Perhaps they were trying to add some gravitas to the film?
6. I Love You to Death
I-I-I-I love this song to death. It’s dumb and repetitive, yet fun. The Construction Worker sings it ferociously, in a fantasy sequence, as female dancers in tight red dresses slink around him. I think it’s supposed to be sexy, but it fails on that front. Once a dancer bites his bicep, it’s impossible to take this seriously. Not to mention all the glitter that rains down on them.
5. Guttenberg’s gusto
Guttenberg is dialed up to a 23, on a 1 to 10 scale, every moment he’s on screen. The best is the opening where he enthusiastically roller skates through the streets of NYC as “The Sound of the City” plays on the soundtrack. He’s just so damn jazzed up about…everything.
4. Do the shake
In order to finance the Village People, Samantha comes out of supermodel retirement to do a TV commercial for milk that also features the group. The beginning of the ad has little boys dressed up as the VP characters. They drink their milk and grow up to be strong macho men. Then they do an intricately choreographed Busby Berkley-type number to “Milkshake”. It’s nuts. Also, a DJ should put together a mashup of the song and Kelis’ “Milkshake”. A shakeoff.
Lulu (Marilyn Sokol) is Samantha’s sidekick. She’s also an incredibly horny woman. Sex jokes and double entendres fly out of her mouth at a rapid pace. Sokol comes off as plain goofy, though, as she vamps and gyrates for the camera. You feel so embarrassed for her, yet you’re unable to turn away.
The Village People, Samantha, Jack, and Ron take a trip down to the local Y and find themselves caught in the middle of a cluster of hot muscular guys. A gay fever dream ensues. There’s locker room lip syncing, synchronized diving, slow-motion wrestling, and some very 80s special effects. Side note, CSTM is the only PG movie to feature full-frontal male nudity with a flash of peen in the shower scene. Someone at the ratings board must have been asleep at the wheel. There’s also a boob shot with Perrine. Something for the straight guys in the audience. All zero of them.
1. The fact it exists at all
But, really, how did this movie get made? In the summer of 1979, when production started up, disco was dying due to oversaturation and the “disco sucks” movement. Building a movie around a fading music genre/scene probably wasn’t the best idea. Someone should have stepped in and pulled the plug before it even began. Of course, then we wouldn’t have this craziness to “enjoy”. Maybe you shouldn’t try to stop the music afterall.